During the last century, especially since 1883, the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Luther, there have been two Luthers – one of panegyric, romance and fiction, and the other the Luther of fact. Since the 450th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation is being commemorated this year, these TWO Luthers are still being presented. Only recently an ardent clerical Catholic ecumenist wrote that the Catholic Church now admits that it has been wrong all along about Martin Luther, and that he really deserves to be canonized as a saint. On the other hand, most historians presenting facts give quite a different account. These facts about Luther I will briefly present, and let you be the judge.
Dr. Guilday, former history professor at the Catholic University, summed up the work of Luther’s life this way: “The cleavage of Luther from the Catholic Church was not caused by opposition to the Papacy, but by the false idea, which seems to have haunted him unto obsession – his total impotency under temptation. It was this negation of the moral value of human action – this denial of man’s ability to overcome sin – which led to his famous doctrine of the worthlessness of good works. The only hope he had was a blind reliance on God, whose Son, Jesus Christ, had thrown around him the cloak of his own merits. From this starting point it was facilis descensus Averni. Opposition to all good works, and particularly to Monastic regulations and to Indulgences, led to opposition to authority – Episcopal and Papal.”
Martin Luther was born in 1483; he was the second oldest of eight children. The discipline in the home appears to have been strict by modern standards, but this could hardly have affected his later life, as some contend. He was a good student, and his father decided that his son should study law, and thus bring some prominence to the family which was very poor. The first four years of Luther’s studies were devoted to liberal arts, principally to the study of Latin, Greek, philosophy and ethics.
But it was in his moral conduct and teaching that Luther was foul-mouthed, scurrilous – even obscene. Most historians declined to print his vile talk. His slogan “Sin bravely, but believe more bravely,” gives the clue to his thinking. He advised priests and nuns to marry as he had done; he urged the State to abolish all monasteries and convents, and many States did. He preached that chastity outside of marriage is an abomination – that the vow of chastity is worse than adultery. He counselled concubinage and immorality for husbands – also divorce and remarriage at the husband’s will.